Albania (Shqiperia) is a country in Southeast Europe. The population is slightly less than 3 million.
How to get to Albania
You can get to Albania by the plane to Tirana, or through the land border from Montenegro, Greece, Macedonia or Kosovo.
From Nontenegro to Albania. The option to diversify the beach Montenegrin rest by visiting Albania is quite feasible. From Boka Kotorska bay, perhaps far, from Budva there are one-day excursions, and from neighboring cities, Bar and Ulcinj, naturally. You can, of course, going without an excursion, on your own, and for a longer time. In terms of beach recreation, the Albanian coast is much more suitable for people than Montenegrin coast - almost the entire coastline is a sandy beach.
From Macedonia to Albania, you can enter either from Struga or through Pogradec.
Through Struga to Tirana there is a passing bus, almost always late (in my case - for one hour). To the border to go half an hour, another half an hour or two takes the passage of the two borders, which consists in collecting, and then distributing passports. You do not need to leave the bus, everything is done by a special escort. It's not necessary to go to Tirana, where to go depends on where you are going. Well, Albanian transport is a special story, more about this below.
The second option, through Pogradec is somewhat more complicated. There is no direct transport, you need to cross the border on foot. And for this, first take the bus from Ohrid to the border (forty minutes), and then from the border to Pogradec - it's only by taxi (10-15 minutes).
For 45 years the country built socialism with an Albanian face. As a result, for the tourism Albania did not to exist - a few people were abroad, both from Albania and to it.
How they really lived there in those times, I do not know. The guide said that the Albanians are completely hated by their unchallenged communist leader Enver Hoxha, unlike, say, the Serbs who respect Tito in general (again, in her words). Apparently, Hoxha was really a kind of person - some bunkers, which are a symbol of socialist Albania, which are worth.
This bunker is non-standard - very large, for the family, probably. Usually there are small individual. So Hoxha ordered everyone, without fail, to have his bunker - in case of an attack by the imperialists.
But, with or without Hoxha, as Albania has been Europe's poorest country, it still remains. Interruptions to water and electricity are not uncommon. In cities, first of all, the dilapidated almost to the ruins of a house are conspicuous.
At the same time, there is a very active construction. The central streets are already quite decent, and the capital does look like a normal European city.
At the same time, do not say that everything was exceptionally cheap. Not that it is directly very expensive, but, based on the incomes of the majority of the population, you expect a few other prices.
On the other hand, mud and devastation are clearly visible in more or less large cities. In villages and small towns everything is quite decent.
And most importantly - Albania is absolutely safe country for tourists. No military conflicts have long been around, everything is calm. People are benevolent, some even try to speak Russian, which they taught at school.
Albania in miniature. Town of Lezhe
Here it is - Albania. A withering river with cows grazing on the banks and another mausoleum of Skanderberg (this is the main Albanian hero - about him in the article "Kruje"), old houses and new monumental structures, a medieval fortress on one mountain and antennas on the other. For completeness of the picture, there is still not enough of a huge Orthodox church behind the back built into the mountain (as they say, built with the funds of some Russian) and completely turned into the ruins of a railway station nearby.
Albania religion is Muslim, but without fanaticism. The mosques are standing, but I didn't see that the streets was empty when the muezzin calling. It would be surprising if suddenly appeared a lot of devout believers, because Hoxha strictly prohibited religion (any) . As the guide told, if on the street there are women in traditional Muslim clothes - most likely these are visitors from Kosovo. Yes, and in addition to mosques, there are both Catholic and Orthodox churches.
By the way, as for Kosovo, I got the impression that the main reason for the well-known problems in the region is the Kosovars themselves, not Albania or something other. Some help was provided from Albania, because the majority population of Kosovo is Albanians, but it is unlikely that Albania was the initiator.
Albanian language is difficult to learn, but fun. Thanks - faliimenderit, goodbye - mirupavshim. :)
Young people try to speak English, only because of this and can be explained. Well, in hotels, of course, English is known. By the way, hotels in Albania are cheap and quite decent.
The Albanian street food is pizza (apparently Italy has influenced) and gyros (and this is Greece, Giros - pita with different fillings, most often with a bunch of fillings - meat, salad, potatoes, sauce.)
Wine is average, the price-quality ratio is too expensive. About local cognac, called, of course Scanderberg can say the same.
In villages, the people, it happens, move and on carts with horses or donkeys, but there are quite a few cars in the cities, and there are a lot in Tirana, traffic jams are not uncommon. And no one pays attention to the rules of the road. Cars quietly continue to go in the green light for pedestrians and stop only if people are directly in front of the hood. However, pedestrians also do not behave better. Our driver, having left Albania back to Montenegro, joyfully drummed on the steering wheel a cheerful march. :) Outside the city roads are free. Every second car is a Mercedes :), not the new, but the 80s-90s.
The roads from Tirana to the big cities are good, the countryside is like the country roads. :)
Greetings from Socialism
Public transport of Albania
Public transport represented by the railway (never saw a single train), large buses and minibuses (in local jargon van). It is not always comfortable, but also not cheap. In the shuttle bus, the radio starts simultaneously with the engine start - a loud local boom-boom. :)
Now, how to move around Albania. This deserves a separate story, because it is not possible to describe the work of the Albanian public transport with more or less decent words.
First, forget about the Internet. There are a couple of sites that specialize in scheduling Balkan transport, but this schedule not coincide with the real one. Much worse, that it is impossible to find out this schedule on the spot. The bus station in Albania is just a bunch of buses - no schedule, no ticket office, no station. At best, there are stalls of individual companies where they sell tickets.
At the bus station you first look for a bus with the right sign. In this sense, you need to prepare in advance, because the bus can go to another city, but to pass through the right one. If nothing is found - we interview the drivers. Usialy, result of their communication among themselves, it turns out that the required bus is available, but where and when it - unknown. Therefore, you need to go to the road from Tirana to the desired city (and this can be in the opposite side) and there to catch a minibus. And this is not an isolated case, but a system. Almost all transport in Albania is moving in the direction from Tirana or to Tirana.
It's no wonder that any movement takes away not less than half a day and a decent amount of money, because it is necessary to pay for driving zigzags.
An example illustrating the above. I'm going from Berat to Gjirokaster (the two most tourist Albanian cities). The distance is 120 km., almost strictly south, the crossing should take about two and a half hours. My itinerary: Berat-Levan - 70 km. strictly to the east, two hours along the country roads, Levan-Zhirokastra - 100 km., another two hours.
You can travel by passing. This business in Albania is very developed - if the passing driver sees a man standing by the side of the road, he will definitely stop to lure him into the car. :) But then you need to imagine how much it might cost to travel by this route by bus, so as not to overpay. Well, the problem of a language barrier can arise.
Here such exotic. And yet, it was interesting. :)